Less than 100 miles north of London lies sunny Stratford-Upon-Avon, home to Shakespeare and your next vacation! Whether it be a day trip or a few nights’ stay, the history in this riverside town is worth a visit. Here’s a guide for the can’t-miss spots in Stratford-Upon-Avon!
- Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Gardens: At the corner of fairytale and gardens, you’ll find a thatched roof, fruit trees in bloom, and the cozy rooms of Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, who grew up in this cottage as part of the 13 generations of inhabitants. Built more than 5 centuries ago, much of the original home survives, including the bench where Shakespeare supposedly courted Hathaway. You can take a nice stroll among the trees and flowers, dig deep into the history of the house, or even recite a line or two of poetry beside one of the many sculptures decorating the grounds. For history nerds and cottage-core enthusiasts alike, this is a must-see!
- The Royal Shakespeare Company: When Shakespeare worked, his plays were seen on the South Bank of the Thames River in London. Years after the great artist’s death, local brewer Charles Flower felt the Bard’s hometown needed a theatre itself and donated the land that the now Royal Shakespeare Company stands on today. Located on the banks of the Avon River, it takes after the historic downtown London Globe Theater in its performance venue’s roundabout shape and shares in its rich legacy of well-done works. While you’re in town, take a tour of the facilities and be sure to take in a show! Quick tip: if you take the tour, you can usually get 10% off in the gift shop full of books, scripts, and Shakespeare stuff.
- Church of the Holy Trinity & Shakespeare’s Grave: Steeples often hold storied history; the Holy Trinity Church’s holds a historical man of stories. Nestled between willow trees on the peaceful Avon River, the Holy Trinity Church was home to playwright William Shakespeare both in his time and after, as the place where he was baptized and later buried. Come to see the final resting place of England’s most famous playwright or simply to visit Stratford’s oldest building. I’d recommend chatting with a local volunteer about the history of the church. Our lovely volunteer drew our attention to the way the cruciform church shape slanted while standing in the nave looking at the front altar; the symbolism of the shape was meant to symbolize the way Christians believe Christ hung on the cross! Little details are scattered throughout, so be sure to make use of their volunteers and written resources to make the most of your time.
- The Stratford Butterfly Farm: Just a few steps off the bank of the Avon lies, or should I say flies, the Stratford Butterfly Farm. Home to hundreds of beautiful butterflies, this spot is one of fun for all ages. Families, nature-lovers, and those who love a beautiful garden will all enjoy the lush and colorful grounds at the farm. If you’re lucky, you may even experience a butterfly taking a rest on your finger!
- Shakespeare’s Birthplace: Arguably the most well-known thatched roof in town, Shakespeare’s Birthplace is what it sounds like: young William Shakespeare’s stomping grounds! The Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust runs many of the sites associated with the Swan of Avon, and this is where it all started. In the middle of the town’s main street, you’ll find Shakespeare’s childhood home, where you can learn about his family from the well-researched staff and interact with objects left to tell the tale. Be sure to ask about why people say “sleep tight” at night!
- Bancroft Basin: Ever heard of an ice cream boat? Just downstream of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the River Avon pools in a collection of houseboat restaurants and attractions known as the Bancroft Basin. Take a seat by the riverfront to watch (but not feed) the swans or observe the canal lock transporting ships from the basin to the river and back. Snack on some ice cream nearby or dine aboard a barge by hopping on a river cruise right here in this basin. It’s the perfect place to spend the afternoon.
- The Fourteas: England is known for its tea services, and Stratford takes you out of time with the Fourteas’ shoppe. As its name would suggest, the shop is themed entirely to the 1940s, from the WWII décor to the costumed waitstaff to the swing and big band music in the background. We opted for the afternoon tea service, complete with finger sandwiches, desserts, scones, and a pot of tea for each person! They have options from just a few scones to entire dishes, all on-theme and made with care. Stop by for an entire meal time, and you won’t go hungry here.
- The New Place: The last of the Shakespearean spots is The New Place, or the place where Shakespeare’s new house used to be. After living with his mother for years, Shakespeare finally built a home for his wife and kids to reside in while he was away on theatrical stints in London. You can learn the story of why it’s no longer standing by visiting the site. What’s left? A beautifully dedicated garden, complete with mulberry trees (whose juice was often used to represent blood onstage in Shakespeare’s time), a modern sculpture garden inspired by the novels, and Shakespeare’s own signet ring. I’d recommend taking a blanket and a book to pause in the gardens for a while!
- The MAD Museum: The Mechanical Art and Design Museum juxtaposes the nature and history of Stratford to showcase STEM in the U.K.’s only permanent venue for mechanical art. Nearly everything inside is interactive from the touch of a button to full-scale building, making this stop ideal for both kids and kids-at-heart. Inquisitive and eccentric, this museum knits creativity and curiosity to craft a space for methodical and arts-oriented minds. Run by a local family from Warwickshire, this local stop may be the most fun.
- Shopping: Between Bridge Street and Union Street, take a walking pass at all the shops Stratford has to offer! As a storied town, I highly recommend its antique shops; you can find teacups, Shakespearean merchandise, and postcards of the willows all for bargain prices. On the street where Shakespeare’s Birthplace lies, no cars are permitted, and tourist shops run wild. You can find everything from fudge to teddy bears for souvenirs along this pass. I highly recommend the Peter Rabbit shop for some good old English childhood nostalgia. One block over between Wood and Ely Street you’ll come across boutiques and speciality shops, such as Magic Alley and Mosaïque, for more upscale finds. Being Shakespeare’s hometown, there is no shortage of places themed to his works; for some Bard-inspired gifts, check out For Something Different and any place you walk upon! I was especially a fan of Romeo and Gelato.
No matter how long your stay, Stratford has something in store for you! Contact Millennium Tours to book your trip today.